American Born Chinese

by Gene Luen Yang

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At the end of the comic American Born Chinese, Jin goes to a Chinese restaurant and wants to order, but he does not know how to read the menu. However, as he goes to that restaurant more often, he becomes more familiar with the menu and has no problem with ordering in that restaurant. What does this indicate about assimilation into an environment? Considering Jin also waits for Wei-Chen in a Chinese restaurant, what does this say about Jin's attitude toward his identity?

In American Born Chinese, Jin’s initial inability to order in the Chinese restaurant shows how his determination to assimilate into suburban American culture has disconnected him from his roots. But it's easier for him to become comfortable in this Chinese environment than in American environments, because it's a space where he does not have to hide who he truly is. When he waits for Wei-Chen in a Chinese restaurant it shows that he is coming to embrace his true identity.

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Jin’s increasing familiarity with the Chinese menu and his increasing comfort in Chinese restaurants show that he is coming to embrace his identity. When he is first unable to read the menu, he is embarrassed and realizes that even though his parents came from China, he is disconnected in many ways from his Chinese identity. His determination to assimilate into white, suburban American culture has estranged him from his roots.

But as he returns to the restaurant, he becomes so familiar with the menu that he can order without worrying about the language barrier. This shows that cultural assimilation occurs in many different ways and that knowing the language is not necessarily the only way to become comfortable in a culture.

Jin is also able to easily and authentically settle into this environment because it is one where he is not trying to be someone else. Although it is tough for him to adjust to the language barrier at first, it is easier for him to become comfortable in this Chinese environment than in American environments like his school.

When Jin waits for Wei-Chen in a Chinese restaurant, the location symbolizes his cultural development. It shows that he is embracing his true identity and that he has given up the inauthentic, tiresome charade of trying to be someone he is not.

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